SAN ANTONIO – Just over 17 hours on the last Saturday in March, the Loyola Ramblers will cease to be a medium basketball program. There are no such terms when two teams compete for something as valuable as a place in the NCAA championship team. Instead, the court in the middle of the Alamodome will contain two large teams.
The 2018 Final Four is the first to feature four 30-win teams, and it would be a mistake to win some of the Ramblers because they were picked up in the Missouri Valley. The valley was the No. 8 conference this season. And they dominated this league.
MORE: NCAA Tournament Brace
Michigan found its dominance late in the season when a program known for its offensive beauty adopted a defense-first approach that has made the Wolverines the No. 4 in the USA Defensive efficiency and led to the championship of the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA West region. Loyola could return to the center of the big kingdom after this weekend, where they are unlikely to celebrate that they have been the sixth Final Four team since George Mason's breakthrough in 2006. But for now, the Ramblers are one in four teams with a chance to win the 201
Final Four matchup:
How to Watch
The Final Four matchup between Loyola and Michigan will tip over at 6:09 pm ET. It will be aired on TBS and broadcast live on NCAA.com and the March Madness App.
No. 11 Loyola-Chicago
|Trainer: Porter Moser, 1st Final Four|
|Overall balance: 32-5|
|Points leader: Clayton Custer, 13.2 ppg|
|Recoiler: Donte Ingram, 6.3 Roleplay|
|Templar Guide: Clayton Custer, 4.2 apg|
|Famous athlete without athletes: Actor Bob Newhart|
|Trainer: John Beilein, 2 Final Fours|
|Overall balance: 32-7|
|Front runner : Moe Wagner, 14.3 ppg|
|Recoiler : Moe Wagner, 6.9 rpg|
|Master Leader : Zavier Simpson, 3.7 apg|
|Famous athlete without athletes: Actor Margo Martindale|
Best single fight: Michigan PG Zavier Simpson vs. Loyola PG Clayton Custer
Simpson has become a superb on-ball defender, and his ability to disrupt the onset of the Ramblers 'attack will be crucial to the Wolverines' defensive success. The Ramblers do not create much offensive from the dribbling, so it is more important for UM to put the passer-by under pressure and force him to initiate offensive from uncomfortable or non-executable positions.
Custer is the best scorer of a team that has five players on average between 10.3 and 13.2. The Ramblers are not worried about who gets points as long as the players they receive wear maroon uniforms. They do a phenomenal job and throw the defense out of balance with their movement and bring the ball to the edge. But if Simpson can ruin this machine from the start, Loyola will have trouble making the necessary offense to win.
Critical coaching decision
Moser will have to decide on the ideal path to defend Michigan Center Moe Wagner, who could be the most versatile big man in Division I. It is especially challenging because Ramblers Center Cameron Krutwig is a newcomer and against someone with an experience advantage. Krutwig played against Nevada's positionless approach and was able to play for 22 minutes, bringing with him nine points and seven rebounds.
The question for Loyola is whether to expand to the 3-point line and perhaps give up the straight line. Line is driving that may spawn Michigan's spread offensive or retreat to expose Krutwig to help against penetration, but may give Wagner open 3-pointers. Florida State allowed Wagner open shots; He is a .396 shooter from a long distance, but was 0 for 7 in this game. Houston allowed him a place to shoot and he hit 2 of 4 from the deep, but he was internally molested and ended up with only nine punches.
Loyola does a fantastic job and stifles penetration because her defenses are so good. If the Wolverines have another hard day at a distance, they may need to fight again to get their offense moving.
Most important value: 110
Until they take over the court for the first of the national semi-finals, Michigan and Loyola will have played 110 days together without losing a game. Michigan was last defeated on 6 February by Northwestern. Loyola's last loss came from Bradley with a single basket. They are the two hottest teams in college basketball, with a combined 27 consecutive wins. Oh, and do you remember when so many wondered if Big Ten's tournament teams would suffer because they had played their tournament the week before to hold the event at Madison Square Garden? Both the Wolverines and the Ramblers won their conference tournaments on the same day, March 4, and waited 11 days to open in the NCAAs.
Meet: Loyola Center Cameron Krutwig
He's the only one who has this Final Four on a one-and-don'te event. There are only two freshmen in the four teams, an unusually low number, but Krutwig is in the Ramblers' lineup for 33 of the team's 37 games and is one of five in the team to score double digits on average. He is also a big man in his band: The Six Cheersmen, who makes a recording of Christmas music, which he keeps on his Twitter account. He sings on Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" and old classics like "Let it Snow" and "White Christmas". If it is good: he is 6-9, 260 pounds. So obviously he is a combination of Bing Crosby, Sam Cooke, Luther Vandross and Bruno Mars.
The selection: Michigan
The wolverines have a better size, athleticism and depth. The advantage that Loyola has due to its togetherness and precision is mitigated against an opponent who is not only in unison, but also with larger and more agile players. Both teams are ready to slow down, which could help Loyola, as more possessions usually support the team with more talent. Wagner has to play better than he does for much of this tournament; he makes 12.5 points and shoots .473 from the field. These numbers will not make it in such big games.
We are reluctant to say that the wolverines in Beilein have a significant advantage because Moser has done such a great job, but it is possible that there is currently no coach that does anything better than Beilein. And he has been to this game before, which never hurts. Veteran coaches are 9-5 against newcomers in the last 15 years.